After about twenty years without any event, freestyle kayaking made a significant comeback in Italy! Last weekend, kayakers from all around Italy (and even Germany) met in Valstagna, two hours north from Venice, for the Brenta Rodeo. The Brenta Rodeo offered a supportive and welcoming environment to introduce paddlers to freestyle and to honor the memory of Max Benetton.

The traditional village of Valstagna, located in the beautiful valley of the Brenta River

Saturday – clinics

The event started Saturday morning with some clinics. More than fifty people were split into groups to learn the basics of freestyle. First, people went on flat water to consolidate their roll, practice the back-deck roll, and even challenge themselves with some hand rolls. After that, the groups were invited to learn more about flatwater freestyle, practice their edge control and give a go at the double pump or flat water cartwheel.

Finally, the groups were brought down the slalom course to surf some waves before dropping into the main hole. There, they learn how to side surf, do a 360 spin and even blow some kisses to the public. The progression was fantastic, juniors surfed for the first time, seniors did their first spin and loop and masters threw more cartwheels than they ever did before.

Lucien reviewing some basics before going down the slalom course

The atmosphere on the water was incredible. While coaches were there to support all the paddlers, everyone was cheering each other on and helped when a rescue was needed. The addictive freestyle atmosphere we all look for when we paddle came naturally, and we could not have hoped for a better first day.

Filippo, one of our juniors, ferrying across the hole without a deck. Photo by Claudio Collareda

Sunday – clinics & jam session

After a few spritz, a delicious pizza and a good night sleep by the river, paddlers were ready to affront the hole one more time. We started the day with more clinics, this time letting people paddle more independently and supporting each other. The idea was to show them how they can practice freestyle by themselves in the future, without the need for safety on the bank.

In the afternoon, everyone challenged themselves during a Jam Session. Groups of six paddlers had twelve minutes to paddle with each other and show the judges all the things they had learned: a roll in the hole, some paddle spins, a timid harry potter and some beautiful aerial enders. More advanced paddlers, including some members of the Italian freestyle team of 2003 and 2022, also entertained the crowd by throwing some huge loops and McNasties.

Silvio Lorenzon, who received the Max Benetton Trophy, paddling the first boat Max ever designed. Photo by Claudio Collareda

Finally, we presented the results on the most unstable podium ever seen at a freestyle comp. We had beautiful prizes, including kayaking gear but also local wines and dry sausages, which some of our paddlers received during our raffle. We also presented the Max Benetton Trophy to Silvio Lorenzon. Max was a local freestyler, making his own carbon boats and traveling all around the world to surf and paddle. The event celebrated and embodied everything Max loved: people trying their best and affronting their fears, people cheering each other up at all times, a lot of fun and a great show in the hole.

Left: Leonardo from Ozone styling the wave. Top: Our master podium receiving their Palm prizes

We hope freestyle can continue to grow in Italy, and we hope for more events like the Brenta Rodeo in the future! Thank you everyone for making this event happen and for the good times. To next year!